Anti-Fracking March on Kent City Hall

Feb 11, 2012 – 11:00 am
The Kent Stage
175 E. Main St.
Kent    (Directions)

Anti-Fracking March on Kent City Hall

When: Feb 11 – 11 a.m.

Where: Beginning at the Kent Stage

Judge Blocks Obama Administration Rules on Fracking




Pump jacks in an oil field over the Monterey Shale in Lost Hills, Calif. The hydraulic fracturing boom has put the United States on track to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. CreditDavid McNew/Getty Images
A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Obama administration’s first major regulations on hydraulic fracturing, a technique for oil and gas drilling that has led to a boom in American energy production but has also raised concerns about health and safety risks.

The United States District Court for Wyoming issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Interior Department from carrying out the rules, which were issued in March by the department’s Bureau of Land Management. The ruling, however, stops regulations aimed at only a small fraction of the nation’s domestic oil and gas production.

The Interior Department began drafting the rules, focused on drilling safety, in Mr. Obama’s first term after breakthroughs in the technology, also known as fracking, led to a surge in the production of oil and gas.

The rules were the Obama administration’s first effort to regulate fracking, but they applied only to oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands. The vast majority of fracking in the United States — almost 90 percent — is done on state and private land and is governed by state and local regulations.

Almost as soon as the rules were released, oil and gas industry groups, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America and theWestern Energy Alliance, sued the administration to block them, charging that they were unnecessary and duplicated state regulations.

In siding with the plaintiffs, the court concluded that the Bureau of Land Management lacked the authority to regulate energy extraction on public lands.

“The fracking rule creates an overlapping federal regime, in the absence of congressional authority to do so, which interferes with the states’ sovereign interests in, and public policies related to, regulation of hydraulic fracturing,” Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote in the ruling.

The decision delays execution of the rules in every state until the Wyoming court hears arguments on their legal merits. The case is expected to be argued later this year.

“While the matter is being resolved, the B.L.M. will follow the court’s order and will continue to process applications for permit to drill and inspect well sites under its pre-existing regulations,” an Interior Department spokeswoman, Jessica Kershaw, said in a statement.

Industry groups cheered the decision, which was a blow to environmental groups that had pushed for more regulation of fracking.

“We are overjoyed that we are finally getting relief from the courts regarding the regulatory overreach of the Obama administration,” Kathleen Sgamma, vice president for government and public affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, said in a statement.

The fracking boom has put the United States on track to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. But environmentalists fear that the technique, which involves injecting a cocktail of chemicals deep underground to break up the rocks around oil and gas deposits, could contaminate surrounding water supplies and harm wildlife.

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